Gaming mouse are advertised with high DPI and polling rates. But what do these specifications actually mean, and are higher values really useful?
These specifications generally matter most to gamers, which is why you tend to see the values prominently displayed in advertising and on packaging for gaming mice. You don’t need high precision, programmable buttons or the need of fastest reaction time while when browsing the web or working on a spreadsheet. In some games high precision & programmable buttons are the basic requirement in order to achieve high performance. Also, a high precision mouse is important to graphic artists and designers. So, let’s take a look of what these specifications mean.
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There was a time when a computer mouse contained a rubber ball that rolled as you moved it across a mouse pad. In it the movement of the ball was translated into the mouse’s movement by the help of mechanical rollers. Those days are over, and today we have optical and laser mouse.
Modern optical mouse contain a light – usually a red one and a little camera. As you move the mouse around, the light reflects on the surface below the mouse and the camera takes hundreds of pictures per second. The mouse compares the pictures and determines the direction you’re moving the mouse. The mouse then sends this movement data to your computer as mouse input, and the computer moves the cursor across your screen. Laser mice function similarly, but use infrared light instead of visible light.
Dots per inch (DPI) is a measure of sensitivity a mouse is. The higher a Mouse’s DPI, the faster it will move on the screen. A mouse with higher DPI detects smaller movements and reacts accordingly.
A higher DPI isn’t always better.
When you move your mouse a little bit, your cursor will fly on the screen. On the other side, a higher DPI setting helps your mouse detect and respond to smaller movements accurately. For example, let’s say you’re playing a first-person shooter game. When zooming in with a sniper rifle and trying to aim precisely on small targets, a higher DPI is valuable. It allows you to smoothly aim with small mouse movements. When playing the game normally without a scope-in sniper rifle, this high DPI may be too sensitive. This is why high-end gaming mouse have buttons that to switch between DPI settings on the fly when playing a game.
You can also see why more sensitive mice are attractive to designers that need to make minute adjustments in their designs.
DPI is different from the typical mouse sensitivity setting.
DPI refers to a mouse’s hardware sensing capabilities, while sensitivity is just a software setting for the mouse. For example, if you have a very cheap mouse with low DPI and you change the sensitivity. If you tried to aim at small targets, you’ll see the mouse cursor jump around it as you move it. It’s due to the mouse hardware isn’t enough sensitive to detect the smaller movements. Just using only software capabilities, operating system just compensates by moving cursor farther when it detects a smaller movement & you won’t be able to get smoother movements on the screen. Instead of it you will get hoping moves of mouse.
A high DPI mouse can be easily paired with a low sensitivity settings, so the cursor won’t fly across the screen for smaller movements and the movement will stay smooth.
High DPI mice are more useful if you have a higher-resolution Full HD or 4K Monitor. If you’re playing a game on a low-resolution 1366×768 laptop screen, you don’t need that much high DPI. On the other side, if you’re playing a game on a 4K monitor, a higher DPI allows you to move your mouse cursor across the screen smoothly.
A mouse’s polling rate is how often it reports its position to computer. Polling rate is measured in Hertz (Hz). If a mouse has a polling rate of 125 Hz, it means that it reports its position to the computer 125 times every second – or reports at every 8 milliseconds. A 500 Hz polling rate means that the mouse is reports its position to the computer every 2 ms (milliseconds).
A higher polling rate can decrease the lag that happens between actual mouse movement and when the movement displayed on the screen. On the other side, a higher polling rate will also use more CPU resources as the CPU needs to get the mouse position more often.
A mouse that officially supports a higher polling rate, allows to select a polling rate in its control panel. Some mouse may have hardware switches to adjust their polling rate on the fly, too.
DPI and polling rates are a subject of great debate. Everyone has an opinion, and even some gaming mouse manufacturers have said that DPI is a fairly irrelevant specification to talk about. An extremely high DPI would cause the mouse cursor to fly across your entire screen for a smaller movement. For this reason, a higher DPI isn’t good. The ideal DPI depends on the game you’re playing, how you prefer using your mouse and the resolution of your screen.
A higher polling rate could be useful. But the differences between 1000 Hz and 500 Hz will be hard to notice. A higher polling rate also uses more CPU resources, so setting the polling rate too high will just waste CPU memory. So, there’s no benefit in releasing mouse over 1000 Hz polling rates.
Higher DPI and polling rates may be useful, but they’re not good at everything. There’s a good chance you’ll find yourself decreasing the DPI below the maximum value after buying a high price gaming mouse for normal usage. You don’t need the mouse with the high DPI and polling rates. There are a lot of other important factors affects while choosing a good gaming mouse, it includes size, weight, grip, grip style and button placement, too.